“O khaike paan banaaras vaalaa, Khul jaaye band akal kaa taalaa…”
This song from the legendary movie Don reminds us of the magic of the popular Indian Paan. For most of us, a traditional meal is never complete without the delectable paan. This traditional mouth freshener from India has a lot of varieties including Saada, Meetha, Maghai, Banarasi and Calcutta. Paan has been a part of the Indian meal since ancient times and now has evolved to suit different palates and taste buds.
Paan is also famous in other South Asian countries including our neighboring countries Pakistan and Bangladesh. The basic saada paan has now evolved into many versions, such as rasmalai paan, chocolate paan, and the ever popular meetha paan. While paan is often linked to India, it is a tradition in South, East and South East Asia too. Wicked Spoon Confessions deconstructs the meetha paan today to see what it is made of and why and where is it famous!
Meetha paan, the most popular version of the quintessential paan is also known as Calcutta paan sometimes. It is made out of the humble betel leaf and usually with a combination of areca nut, sweetened coconut, gulkhand (rose petal jam), slaked lime paste (edible calcium carbonate), camphor, cardamom, roasted fennel seeds, anise seeds, nutmeg, licorice, almond, cashew, pistachio, candied fruits, coconut flakes and katha. All these ingredients are added on a betel leaf based on the preference of the paan lover.
The betel leaf is then folded into a trianglular shape, known as “beeda”. The various flavors of these ingredients combine together and produce the unique sweet, tangy, and spicy taste of the meetha paan. Meetha paans are sometimes topped with a cherry for that extra sweetness and presentation.
Sometimes, chewing tobacco is also included in the paan based on customers’ preference. However, tobacco is not advisable due to its harmful effects on health and wickedspoonconfessions strongly advises its readers to avoid tobacco in any form. Meetha paan is a part of traditional north Indian meal and has also found its way to South, especially in wedding parties.
In India, paan is sold in almost every street or corner in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, and Kolkatta as well as in small cities and towns. Each city has its own favorite paanwalas or paan makers. The paanwala shops are roadside shops and you can get the paan of your choice made fresh on the spot. It is not uncommon to see people who enjoy food in an elegant and fine-dining restaurant, step out in search of the simple paan stall, adorned with the posters of Bollywood actors and a bright light bulb to enjoy their favorite meetha paan and have the complete meal experience.
Let us take a tour to some famous paan shops in the country.
1. ****Mucchad Paanwala, Mumbai
Mucchad paan shop is famous not only in Mumbai but outside Mumbai too. They have a website of their own and offer a variety of more than 50 paans. They also have outlets in Andheri, Juhu, etc. Their meetha paan with coconut shreds and homemade gulkhand are a must to try.
2. ****Ghantawala Paan Mandir, Mumbai
This famous paan shop is located in Borivali and offers more than 125 varieties of paans. You can always find something to suit everyone’s taste here. Their specialties include the samosa meetha paan that is shaped like a samosa, the chocolate paan, dunked in khus syrup and dry fruits, and the chhappan bhog, which contains 56 different ingredients! Whoa, that sounds like something that must be tried!
3. ****Pandey’s Paan Shop, New Delhi
The Indian paan has become popular worldwide. The Paandey’s paan shop has been supplying paan to Obama’s house and other former US Presidents including Bill Clinton and George Bush. Many Bollywood celebrities are also fans of Pandey’s paan. The popular flavors of paan offered by this shop include strawberry, wild blueberry, custard apple, black forest, fresh fruit, and roasted cashew!
4. ****Ajzar ka Shahi Paan Darbar, Lucknow
Paan has been a part of Lucknow’s culture and custom since ages. The Ajzar ka Shahi Paan Darbar is located at Akbari Gate Chowk. Pista paan, badam paan, jafrani paan, palangtor paan, khatta meetha paan are some of the famous paan types offered at this shop.
5. ****Keshaw Paan Bhandar, Varanasi
Varanasi is another city that has paan rooted in it culture and is a heaven for food lovers in general. A trip to Varanasi is never complete without enjoying the refreshing organic paan from Keshaw paan Bhandar located at Guru Ravidas Gate. You can always find a small crowd here waiting to taste their delicious paan.
With that interesting info on meetha paan, we would say–do enjoy your favorite meetha paan without the harmful tobacco. Also, don’t go around spitting here and there after eating the paan and act responsibly. Do let us know what kind of paan do you like and which is your favorite paan shop in your city 🙂